TORTURING WOLVES BY FLAYING THEM ALIVE
By S. C. Turnbo
Though inhumane and cruel .. but a few settlers of Little North Fork resorted to removing the hides of wolves while the animals were alive. It was said that the depredations of wolves were so terrible on stock that the pioneers did the acts of savages and in some cases inflicted the most cruel treatment on the ravenous beast they could invent in payment (return) for the destruction of property. Mr. Elias Keesee told of two incidents of this kind. He said "We settlers of Little North Fork in Ozark County, Mo., did all in our power to destroy as many wolves as possible. These animals made awfull inroads on sheep, hogs, calves and young colts and our temper was irritated to the highest pitch.
Some times when we captured a wolf alive we confined it and took off its hide. On one occasion when I was a small boy my father caught a big wolf in a steel trap. It would show the animal too much mercy to slay it out right and we determined to punish it with the most cruel torture I could think of. Leaving the wolf fast in the trap I sought the assistance of Ben Risley and Levi Graham which was willingly given. With chains, ropes and stout thongs of dressed buck hide we tied the animal so secure that it could neither bite, kick or hardly move and with sharp knives we proceeded to remove its hide. This was horrible and was more like the work of savages, but we had been annoyed so much by them that we showed as little mercy toward wolves as the wild Indians did to white people living on the frontiers in the years gone by. The beast lived through the terrible ordeal and when we loosed it and turned it free it got on its feet and actually ran off out of sight. This was the last seen or heard of it. It is not reasonable that it went far or lived but a short length of time. Several years afterward or when I was a good sized boy I and a lot of young fellows took a live wolf out of a pen which we had built on the ridge between little North Fork and where Isabella Post Office is now and after tieing it securely we went to work with our knives and skinned its body neck and legs. Our barbarous treatment was too much for it died at the moment we completed the horrible work. I felt afterward that I had acted too wicked to repeat the operation on another wolf and refused to engage in such work again."
Phillip Green relates an account of a wolf being flayed alive on Pond Fork a tributary branch of Little North Fork In giving the story Mr. Green went on to say that when his relatives Leven T. Green and family settled in Ozark County they in common with others tortured wolves similar to Indians torturing their captives. My grandfather and my father Tom Green built a wolf pen on Pond Fork and caught several in it finally becoming busy at something else the pen was neglected a few days. At this time a settler happened to pass by the pen one day and for the sake of curiosity tied an old dry bone of a horse to the trigger which he found close (the bone) by and set the pen and went on. On the following day a hunter happened along by the pen and discovered a wolf in it. The animal was certainly hungry for it had entered the pen and while knawing on the bone was caught. The hunter knowing who built the pen notified father and he in turn notified others and they all met at the pen among the number was the man who tied the bone to the trigger and caught the wolf. The crowd was angry and thirsted for vengeance in payment for stock destroyed. The animal was doomed. It must be skinned alive. It was some time before the men were ready to begin the work of cruel punishment but they finally commenced and slowly did the work with keen edged butcher knives. The suffering animal did not utter a sound until after they had taken the hide from its body and legs and while they were stripping its tan by force it gave a moaning growl, the men now turned it loose and it struggled to its feet and ran about 100 yards and staggered and fell and death soon relieved its horrible suffering." Another account of flaying a wolf alive is given by "Fie" Snow who came to Ozark County, Mo. in 1833. Here is the way Mr. Snow told the story. "Years ago when my step father Jimmie Forest lived on Little North Fork at mouth of Barren Fork a man of the name of Haney sold goods at our house for several years. While Haney was there I got hold of a pup that was equally mixed with bull and cur. It was about twice the size of a house cat. Haney called it "Chew of Tobacco". When it was grown it looked larger and fiercer than a chew of tobacco but the dog was looked on as a trifling good for nothing fellow, but I failed to give him up. Along about this time a number of men came down from St. Clair County, Mo. to hunt and look at the country. They brought about 25 dogs with them. One night while these men were staying at our house I caught a wolf in a steel trap. The trap had 3 springs, 2 on one end and one on the other. Next morning we all followed the trail of the wolf on horse back and soon over hauled it. The wolf was a large gray one. "Chew of Tobacco" and the other 25 dogs were along, but they all declined to take hold of the wolf except Chew of Tobacco and he caught it by the bur of the ear and held the wolf until Mr. Haney dismounted and caught the wolf by its hind legs. The other men were soon on the spot and they all stretched it broad side on the ground and after tieing its mouth in such a manner that it was not able to use its teeth they took the trap off its leg and held its head down by placing a pole across its neck and while some held the pole in place others held its legs and the other men began the work of flaying it alive. They not only removed the hide from its body but taken it from its head legs and tall. The beast was alive when they finished, when they freed it it rose up and ran to a pool of water 40 yards distant and plunged in where it was about 18 inches deep and howled twice when death came to its relief. The carcass lay in the pool several days. The men gave my step father the scalp and he used it as part payment of his taxes but they carried the hide to St. Clair County with them.
S. C. Turnbo
Springfield-Greene County Library